Notas Culturales

The last couple of days of work with archive-in-progress have been a little bit frustrating & unexpected for me. Instead of talking about that, I thought I’d focus on the culture and experience I’ve had apart from my job here. I don’t have a camera, so all of these images are from Google, but here’s a random list of some of the my favorite & least favorite things in La Paz (so far):

The best:

1. Las “Cebras”. Traffic, and driving in general are ridiculous in La Paz. There are no ‘rules of the road’ and pedestrians certainly do not have the right of way…ever. It sometimes takes forever to cross a street, and it is never completely safe to do so. I always thought these costumed ‘traffic controllers’ were amusing, but I just learned that the Cebras, is actually a program that aims to do two things: increase safety on the streets, and give the people in the costumes access to a fun form of civic engagement. From my observation, nobody actually listens or follow the Cebras’ directions, but I think it’s such a nice idea, and brings a little bit of fun into the frustration of traffic jams!

Cebras

"Cebras" en la Calle. (from: http://bit.ly/y4fcdq)

2. Besos de negros y platanitos. One really great thing about where I work is my close access to the diverse and expansive street markets in La Paz. During my long lunch break, I sometimes take walks or short trips over there for various things. The other day Leo needed a gift for a baby shower, and there is an entire street devoted to stuff for babies. I have a serious adoration for baby shoes & socks, beause it amazes me that there are feet that can fit into them, but she went the toy-route instead. Probably safer.

Anywho, Besos de negros are these yummy chocolate bites with a super light, creamy filling. Some stands in the markets near where I work, in downtown La Paz, have them homemade and packaged nicely. They’re delish. Platanitos are mini, baby bananas! They’re not any different than normal bananas – I just like them because they’re teeny & therefore, cuter :)  Andrea scooped up quite a bunch of them today, for an extremely cheap price & we ate them on our walk back to MNA. Oranges, bananas, pineapple…they’re amazing here! And the apple juice in the states can’t even begin to compare!

Besitos de negro

Besitos de Negro! (from: http://bit.ly/xxaOCq)

3. Calle Sagarnaga is really only one street, but it refers to the markets in downtown La Paz, where they sell everything. Tiles, kitchenware, pots & pans, handmade Aymara blankets (camas), Bolivian flags, soccer jerseys, shoes, socks, bootleg DVDs, rugs, sculptures….you get the picture. Anyway, I love it. I am on a mission to find little woodcarved llamas for the apartment back in Michigan! It’s a great place to see a lot of culture in one tiny place! More photos can be seen here.

Fruit sellers at Calle Sagarnaga

Fruit sellers on Calle Sagarnaga (from: http://bit.ly/y3YWaS)

4. Postmodern Art in Bolivia. I was super stoked to see some of the modern & postmodern works in MNA, but I have also been able to learn about other artists beyond our collections here – both through visiting other museums & creating this archive. Lots of images/ artists are discussed in the newspapers and media records that I handle everyday! A few big names in 20th century Bolivian/South American art include: Sol Mateo, Cecilia Lampo, Keiko González, María Luisa Pacheco, Herminio Pedraza, Lorgio Vaca, Gastón Ugalde. Photos below aren’t necessarily my favorites, but are artists who I could find images for:

Gill Imaná

"Encarcelado," oil painting by Gill Imaná (from: http://bit.ly/zspQwt)

5. Bolivian Mountains. They’re very pretty, and kind of speak for themselves! (Plus, there are lots of llamas in ’em!)

Moñtanas Bolivianas

Las Moñtanas Bolivianas (from: http://bit.ly/zI7OPN)

6. Learning little things in Aymara. Because the indigienous population is so large here, people often say or refer to a few things in the Aymara (or Quechua) langauge. Apparently in Aymara, when they want to add extra emphasis to something, they say it twice. Example, ‘muyo muyo’ means ‘a lot of’! :)

7. Making family dinners with my roommates. Whether it’s mac & cheese, rice, chicken & potatoes, stir fry, or anything else, it’s nice to have a pseudo-family while here!

The worst:

1. Nescafé. Gross. South America is known for having awesome coffee, but they actually export most of it. And people everywhere drink this nasty excuse for coffee instead. No thank you.

Nescafé

Instant Nescafé packages (from: http://bit.ly/AEHQVK)

2. Ispis. They’re little baby fish that are fried, and people eat them whole – face, spine, tail, & all. Just like they’re french fries, or popcorn.…barf. I told the museum staff that I’m not interested, because I prefer to keep heads and eyeballs out of my diet, and they just laughed at me. cé la vie.

Ispis

who wants a snack? (http://bit.ly/xmmscX)

3. Choqueyapu River is more like a creek this time of year. It’s small, smelly, and is closer to being a sewer than anything else. It’s full of waste and litter, and is absolutely filthy. The geography of this city is insane, though, and the river has huge flood lines, because enormous amounts of rainwater come through every year & fill it to the brim. I don’t know that I would want to be around when whatever is in there now gets washed away, though….

Rio Choquepayu

Rio Choquepayu (from: http://bit.ly/y9WiBU)

4. THE COLD. At least I’m sort of used to it, being from Michigan, but it is frigid here… absolutely frigid. Bolivia is approaching the end of it’s winter season, but even fall, spring, and summer don’t get much warmer. The elevation is too high for drastic climate shifts, and it stays about the same temperature year round. The only difference between months, is that hail, rain, or heavy wind are more frequent at different times of the year. Have to say I really, really miss being warm!

Well, there’s a little teeny bit of my experience so far! Hugs to everyone back at home!

Hasta, xoxo


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